Year after year it always seems to be the same story for Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. A spectacular regular season is followed by an underwhelming playoff performance and an early round exit. Since 2010, the Capitals have earned the President’s Trophy as the team with the best regular-season record three times. In all three instances, the Capitals didn’t make it out of the second round. This includes back-to-back second-round exits at the hands of the Penguins the past two seasons.
Despite running away with the Metro division this season, there hasn’t quite been the focus on the Capitals as in year’s past. For one, their run of President’s trophies ended as Nashville took the honor this year. Second, teams like the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning were battling for the East’s top spot for much of the second half of the season. And, of course, having the two-time defending champion, Penguins in the same division helps draw attention away from the Capitals.
This under the radar season has been reflected in the expectations for this team. As you can tell by this Stanley Cup Playoffs odds tracker, teams like the Penguins, Bruins, and Predators lead the pack. The Capitals? Not so much. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Despite being out of the spotlight to start the playoffs, the Capitals dropped the first two games of the first round at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both coming in overtime. The losses brought back familiar feelings for Capitals fans and hockey fans in general…it’s the same ole’ Capitals. But then, all of a sudden, the Capitals woke up and won four straight to close out the first round to set up a third-straight matchup with the Penguins in the conference semifinals.
Not surprisingly, Ovechkin has been front and center in the Capitals recent success. In fact, he has carried the Capitals for much of the regular season AND postseason. Including his game-winning goal in the closing seconds of last night’s game three, he now has eight goals and five assists in nine playoff games. And, had it not been for a bad stretch in the third period of game one, the Capitals could easily be holding a 3-0 lead as opposed to the 2-1 lead they currently have.
If they finish off the Penguins and advance to the conference finals, they will most certainly be the “underdog” again in a matchup with either the Bruins or Lightning. However, playing relatively pressure-free compared to year’s past seems to do this Capitals team well. And Ovechkin for that matter who has yet to reach the even the conference finals during his 13-year career. A career in which he has led the league in scoring in seven of those 13 seasons.